The Terran Emperor, also referred to in documents as the Emperor of the Terrans or of the Terran Empire, is a hereditary imperial title held by the sovereign ruler of the Terran Empire from its founding in 2430 to its dissolution in 2675. The title continues to be held by the head of the House of Compton, among other titles, as its paramount honour in the peerage of the Republic. The title evolved out of certain political developments in the Terran Federation, and was proclaimed by the Terran Parliament to consolidate the succession to the head of state. The first emperor was crowned in Rome on 25 March 2430.
Internally, the Emperor became the centre of the new ideology of progressive conservatism of the Terran Empire. Deliberately imitating 19th century Napoleonic terminology and methods, the first Terran Emperors aspired to be strong, executive monarchs of a highly centralized and powerful government that would provide for the welfare of its subjects, bypassing local and planetary government. But this ideal was hamstrung by the constitutional restrictions placed upon the Emperor, and most successors of William I were unable to enact reform on a national scale. The Empire became embroiled in feudalism, which various Emperors opposed and attempted to confront directly with the Imperial armed forces. This combination of modern and ancient political systems within the Empire created an blurred public picture of the Emperor as simultaneously mediaeval monarch, modern head of state, and Classical conqueror.
From its outset, the Terran Crown utilized Classical Roman imagery to convey the Emperor as a continuation of Roman notions of "universal empire". Roman armaments, portraiture, architecture, and terminology pervaded the public relations of the Crown. The close personal relationship between the Terran Emperors and the Roman communion of the United Catholic Church both enhanced this image and drew controversy for its blurring the boundary between Church and State. The Terran Emperors persistently denied any fusion between state and religion, maintaining that their Catholicism was a personal choice by the Imperial family.
From its second incumbent, Emperor Baldwin I, the Terran Emperors also absorbed mediaeval imagery and connotations into their public image, particularly related to the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. This was maintained as a manifestation of the additional titles of the Terran Emperor, which included Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor of Germany, and Emperor of Constantinople. This too attracted criticism for allegedly violating secular principles of the Imperial Constitution.
After the reforms of Emperor Francis Charles VI in the early 2900s, the Imperial office became a parliamentary monarchy with significantly expanded administrative powers. The chief officers of state and government were now responsible solely to the Emperor, though parliamentary cooperation remained a practical necessity regarding the selection of the Prime Minister. The Imperial Crown increasingly adopted ceremonial aspects of mediaeval kingship while presenting themselves as venerable sovereigns of an ancient tradition. The House of Compton's ties to Germanic monarchs and warriors of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages enhanced this self-image, according to Imperial historians.
The Emperor as an office of state was hereditary and based on equal primogeniture with no preference towards any particular gender or sex (though the line's birth order tended to favour males). The Emperor's eldest child immediately became heir presumptive upon the succession of the Emperor. The line of succession then went according to the eldest child's children, then to the eldest child's siblings and their children in birth order. For instance, if a Crown Prince died without issue, their next eldest sibling would become heir. If they died, their children would become heirs before their next sibling did. All siblings, children, and grandchildren of an Emperor were automatically given the rank of Prince and afforded honorary titles of the House of Compton, such as Archduke of Austria, Duke in Bavaria, Prince of Prussia, and Prince of America. Many members of the house also held dukedoms in their own right. The specific title and position of Crown Prince was conferred and revoked solely by Imperial decree with the advice and consent of Parliament, and created an heir apparent out of the heretofore heir presumptive.
The heir was considered to have succeeded upon the death of the previous Emperor. Nonetheless, a formal coronation ceremony was seen as traditional and legitimizing. The ceremonies could be elaborate or simple, depending on the tastes of the monarch and the public mood. Sometimes religious imagery and rhetoric played a part, sometimes it did not. When it did, though Catholic ritual dominated, all of Earth's organized religions were present and had a representative bless the crown jewels and the Emperor. This signified the unity of Earth's people, regardless of creed, behind the Crown as well as the Crown's inclusionary policy.
The Imperial Court was constituted as an executive office to assist the Emperor in the exercise of his or her duties and prerogatives, as a ceremonial household for the Emperor, and as a functional household of high servants for the Emperor. The highest offices of the Court were vested in hereditary princes of imperial or royal rank. Other attendants included titled nobles, knights, squires, and pages, comprising many thousands of personnel. While the court was not the centre of government, it was the symbolic and diplomatic centre of the state. The Crown, as a legal entity, constituted the Imperial State in all its forms, and the Imperial Court was the collective body of the Emperor and his extended group of attendants and officers.
The high officers were:
- The Lord High Steward, vested in the Emperor of Luna. The Lord High Steward was responsible for coordinating Court officers and presiding in lieu of the Emperor. The Lord High Steward was statutorily responsible for exercising the regency in the event of an Emperor's minority or absence, or during an interregnum, and could act as Prince-Regent of the Empire in those situations. In the coronations, the Steward presented the crown to the Emperor and held it while the Emperor placed their hand on it to swear the coronation oath. The Steward also presided over trials of peers in the House of Lords.
- The Lord High Chancellor, vested in the African Emperor. The Lord High Chancellor was responsible for managing the day-to-day affairs of the Court and presided over the constitutional court of the House of Lords. In the coronations, the Chancellor bore the globe-capped sceptre and handed it to the Emperor. Custody of the Great Seal of the Empire is also entrusted to the Chancellor.
- The Lord High Marshal, vested in the King of Great Britain. The Lord High Marshal was responsible for the armed security of the Court and the properties it directly managed. The Marshal initially had purview over the personal defence of the monarch, but this role gradually fell to military units and to the Personal Imperial Guard, a branch of the Imperial Gendarmes. In the coronations, the Lord High Marshal bore the sword Joyeuse and belted it around the Emperor's waist.
- The Lord High Chamberlain, vested in the Emperor of Russia. The Lord High Chamberlain was made responsible for managing the Imperial palaces. The Chamberlain has the sole right during coronation to vest the monarch in their coronation robes, mantle, and cape.
- The Lord High Constable, vested in the Emperor and King of France. The Constable had responsibilities for the Imperial stables, managing the Emperor's horses and ensuring their proper care and training, as well maintaining the Emperor's fleet of carriages, chariots, and automobiles. During the coronations, the Lord High Constable would lead the Imperial Horse Guard in the procession to the coronation site and would stand outside the building with the horses of the guard and the Imperial carriage or chariot. The Constable also presided over legal cases regarding the misuse of heraldry and heraldic arms, heard in the House of Lords as the High Court of Chivalry.
Other household offices existed, some of which granted the holder noble rank for their term of office, some of which granted lifetime nobility, and some of which were hereditary:
- The Lord Huntsman, who nominally organized and directed Imperial hunts, particularly domestic stag and boar hunts, but others as well, including the rare but prized Tyrannosaurus rex hunt on remote colony worlds. The Lord Huntsman was also responsible for the care and training of the Emperor's hunting hounds, different packs of which were maintained at the Imperial lodges.
- The Lord Falconer, who directed Imperial hunts which used birds of prey rather than dogs to flush or track the quarry. This position was rarely utilised but was filled throughout the Empire's existence.
- The Lord Provost, who had nominal control over the groundskeepers and security of the main Imperial palace in Brussels, but later had their responsibilities diverted to the Personal Imperial Guard.
- Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, also simply called Lord Privy Seal, who was responsible for guarding and proper usage of the Imperial Privy Seal.
- Lord Bannerbearer, hereditary in the House of Hanover, who was responsible for bearing the Emperor's banner during all ceremonial functions.
- Lord Keeper of the Privy Purse, also called simply Lord Privy Purse, who was given responsibility for the Emperor's personal finances, including management of the civil list, imperial grants, and all semi-private expenditures of the monarch. This is separate from the Treasurer of the Empire, a political office which managed the finances of the Crown and Empire, which was often co-held by the Prime Minister.
- Keeper of the Imperial Archives, who was responsible for keeping and maintaining the archive of the Emperor's personal records, including correspondence, books, photographs and other records, in both hard-copy form in the Imperial Library and in the form of a digital database. The Keeper is assisted by the Royal Librarian, who manages the day-to-day functions of the hard copy archive.
- Lord Butler, who was the head of the Emperor's domestic staff. The Lord Butler was the only member of the domestic staff who was conferred noble rank for life..
- Imperial Cupbearer, who was a member of the Emperor's domestic staff granted noble rank for their term of office. The Cupbearer was responsible for bearing the Emperor's cup in the coronation feast and stood in attendance with the cup in hand during the coronation ceremony. More practically, the Imperial Cupbearer guarded both the Emperor's drink and food against poisoning attempts. Failure in this latter task was met with dismissal and prosecution, as in the case of the death of Emperor Baldwin I.
- Imperial Playmaster, who organized the Emperor's attendance to the opera, theatre, ballet, and cinema.
- Lord Physician, who was the chief medical officer responsible for the personal health and well-being of the Emperor, but could also be called upon to examine and treat the Imperial Family, the officers of the Court, and the Emperor's domestic staff. The Lord Physician was typically a former Imperial Navy or Spacy surgeon. The officer conferred noble rank for the holder's term of office.
- Master of the Swans, an officer responsible for feeding and caring for the Emperor's flocks of swans present on the Emperor's properties.
The incumbent Terran Emperor also holds these titles by sole right:
Holy Roman Emperor, Latin Emperor of Constantinople, Emperor of America, Emperor of Austria, Emperor of Germany, Emperor of Jupiter, Emperor of Mexico, King of Bavaria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, King of Cuba, King of Dalmatia, King of Galicia and Lodomeria, King of Guatemala, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Illyria, King of Jerusalem, King of Lombardy, King of Slavonia, King of Slovenia, and King of Venetia, Elector of Bavaria, Elector of Bohemia, Elector of Brandenburg, Elector of the Rhine, Archduke of Austria, Grand Duke of Frankfurt, Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine, Duke of Upper and Lower Austria, Duke of Carinthia, Duke of Carniola, Duke of Franconia, Duke of Friuli, Duke of Lorraine, Duke of Ragusa, Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, Duke of Salzburg, Duke of Styria, Duke of Sulzbach, Duke of Swabia, Duke of Zara, Duke of Zweibrücken, Prince of Liechtenstein, Prince of Regensburg, Prince of Trent and Brixen, Prince of Tyrol, Margrave of Brandenburg, Margrave of Istria, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia, Margrave of Moravia, Count of Gorizia and Gradisca, Count of Habsburg, Count of Mark, Count Palatine of Neuburg and Simmern, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Count Palatine of Sulzbach, Lord of Nuremberg, Lord of Trieste, Archon of Earth.
The Emperor also holds the following titles by courtesy, with the proper and substantive right of the title held by another person:
Grand Duke of Krakow, Grand Duke of Posen, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Grand Prince of Transylvania, Prince of Orange, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Bosnia, Duke of Brunswick, Duke of Burgundy, Duke of the Cumberland, Duke of Guastalla, Duke of Jülich, Cleves, and Berg, Duke of the Potomac, Duke of New York, Duke of Magdeburg, Duke of the Mississippi, Duke of Modena, Duke of Parma, Duke of Piacenza, Duke of Prussia, Duke of the Rockies, Duke of Saxony, Duke of Westphalia, Count of Hohenzollern.